Only in name

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am

The People Power Coalition. The Nationalist People's Coalition. Democratic Action. Join. Fight. The Christian-Muslim Democrats. When it comes to forming and naming political organisations, nobody parties like Filipino politicians. Unfortunately, the profusion of political parties is not a sign of a healthy democracy, but of political bankruptcy. Parties are not formed to fight for specific platforms or ideas - they are like circus tents set up to hawk one or two candidates, then folded up and forgotten soon after the elections.

In other countries, it is easy to spot which parties are liberal, conservative or radical. Here, an observer would be confounded describing precisely what a typical party stands for. To take one example, nobody has the faintest idea what the platform of the Nationalist People's Coalition is - apart from getting Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco elected, so he can protect his ill-gotten gains.

Apart from the small, marginalised parties of the left, there are no political groupings willing to adapt hard-nosed platforms. For instance, one of the country's besetting problems is the existence of the oligarchy, a tiny clutch of ultra-rich families controlling much of the nation's wealth. No party has dared come forward with a platform for dismantling the dynasties.

With elections only seven months away, voters can expect a surge in the number of grandly named 'parties' formed to launch a specific candidate to office. They can also expect to see colleagues quarrelling and then forming their own breakaway groups.

Creating a political party is easy. Take a handful of words - the favourites are variants on 'democracy', 'nationalism', 'people' and 'country'. String them together so they sound halfway coherent. Throw in a 'platform' of motherhood statements (the need for unity, poverty alleviation, industrialisation, nationalism). And register. Actually, it does not even matter if the name sounds stupid. In the Philippines, a 'Democratic Felafel Eater's Party' could be set up and voters would never notice. The factors which matter are a candidate's wealth, popularity and political connections. Or, as the late Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino put it: 'Guns, goons and gold.'